The Importance of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is one of those terms tossed around in the world of education quite often, but what exactly is critical thinking and why is it important for students to learn? To define the term simply, critical thinking is the process of thinking carefully about a problem or situation and analyzing potential outcomes or solutions. Although it may sound like an easy task, critical thinking is extremely multidimensional as it requires a number of internal steps to be taken. From observing to evaluating, critical thinking encompasses a wide array of useful skills. Let’s look at some of the main aspects of critical thinking and what each provides to students.

Finding Solutions

As mentioned before, critical thinking is most often applied to situations where a problem needs to be solved. This process requires students to think through every possible solution, weigh the pros and cons of each solution, and determine which solution provides the best possible outcome. Problem solving skills such as these are highly important for students to attain. These skills will serve them well into adulthood and in their chosen career fields.

Conducting Research

When students are researching a particular topic, students must think critically about the information they find. They must organize their findings in order to determine its accuracy and usefulness. This specific critical thinking skill serves students as they are writing reports, , and much more!

Improving Ideas

Sometimes, students are tasked with the challenge of improving ideas. As with all critical thinking situations, students must complete a process of evaluation. They must evaluate the subject at hand in order to determine how it can be improved, made better, or more effective. Students can use these particular skills in and out of the classroom, but they are especially catered to math, science, or any of the other STEM subject areas.

Removal of Personal Biases and Opinions

When thinking critically, there is no room for personal bias or opinion as this “pollutes” potential outcomes and somewhat skews informational accuracy. Students cannot allow their personal attitudes toward the problem or task at hand to interfere in the thinking process. Students must think objectively. They must remember that their job in thinking critically is to examine and evaluate information without allowing personal emotions to influence their thinking.

As students enter college and/or pursue a career, critical thinking skills are extremely important and highly sought after. Potential employers want employees who can handle and solve problems independently, create innovative solutions, and cooperate with others to advance ideas. All of these require critical thought; thus, critical thinking skills are truly invaluable to students as they are used so frequently in virtually all career fields and in life.

What is a Keyword Search?

A keyword search is essentially what you place in the search box in any search engine (like Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, and so on). Keyword searches are completed in order to discover relevant links to pages on a chosen topic on the internet. These searches can provide excellent information to students conducting research, but the results must be deciphered as not all links are relevant or appropriate to a student’s research. Because of this, critical thinking plays a necessary role in keyword searches.

Encouraging Critical Thinking Using Keywords

It is important to understand that searching a keyword on the internet will not always provide students with applicable results. When searching keywords, students will be required to look objectively at the search results and determine which are credible source material and resources.

First, students must develop an understanding of how to successfully conduct keyword searches for meaningful information. To help students learn how to navigate keyword search results, teachers can facilitate special learning experiences that are tailored to evaluating search results for their relevance. Modeling is an extremely effective instructional tool that teachers should utilize when teaching new subject matter. To show the critical thinking process, a teacher could complete a keyword search for the class as an example for how students should begin the process on their own. By using a Smartboard or another interactive whiteboard, teachers can display a search engine and begin the keyword search. When the links are displayed, the teacher can model his or her thinking aloud for the class. This provides students with a first hand account of the process for evaluating keyword search results by giving them valuable insights and questions to ask themselves when completing their own keyword search.

Once students understand how to conduct research using a keyword search, the real fun can begin! Teachers can continue fostering and encouraging critical thinking through the following activities:

Group Projects: The teacher should place students into small groups. Each group should be given a topic that is relevant to the current unit of study. Students should conduct their own research on the topic using a keyword search. After allowing an adequate amount of time for research, group members will return together to discuss their findings. Students should present the information that they found to be most useful and compare it to the information found by the others in the group. Essentially, this activity provides a “check” system for search engine results as all students in the group are evaluating the same results.

Sorting Project: For this activity, students will work individually to decipher search engine results. Teachers should give the entire class the same keyword. Students should examine the first 10 links given in the search results (the number of links examined can be adjusted by the teacher as necessary). Students will determine whether the link should be considered relevant to the topic at hand or not. Teachers may provide students with a T-chart or ask students to make a chart on notebook paper to organize their findings. This particular activity can even be used as a game to challenge students to sort the results for their relevance as quickly as possible.